Four things, I submit.
1. Someone who has a passion for public service, not the perks of the job.
2. Someone who speaks as an independent voice, a representative of the people, not a manipulated party puppet.
3. Someone who bridges the gap between black, white, Hispanic, rich and poor. Someone who embraces diversity.
4. Someone who “gets” that the background of the First Congressional District is rooted in the forward thinking of entrepreneurial farmers, under-paid, under-valued teachers, and senior citizens who’ve given us all a legacy of hope and opportunity.
I spent nearly four years working alongside Congressman Marion Berry as a press secretary, and later as a district director. In the years leading up to that privilege, I was a newspaper reporter with a love for following those invested in public service, Blanche Lincoln among them.
And I’ll tell you what Arkansas‘ First Congressional District needs again. We need a public servant, a representative in Congress who follows the example set forth by Marion Berry and Blanche Lincoln.
Three weeks ago today, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington (D-AR) ended his bid to recapture the traditionally Democratic held seat representing nearly a million people. I voted for Ellington, not that I know him personally. We’ve met a few times and I gauged him to be one who fit the mold of Berry and Lincoln. Whether it was an inadequately run campaign, or just bad timing, we may never know, but I think we missed a good opportunity to get the First District going again.
Berry and Lincoln were quite different, yet very much alike.
To each of those one million constituents, she was Blanche. He was Marion.
That’s what I loved the most about them.
Over the years, Lincoln developed a strong skill set in constituent relations.
People loved her. But she was more than just a pretty face. Blanche Lincoln was an effective public servant. She got things done.
Berry, on the other hand, was never a slick, tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear kind of guy. What you saw was what you got. I quit, early on, trying to morph him into something he was not. It couldn’t be done, and no one should have ever tried. Berry got the job done. His advocacy for all of us built roads and overpasses, put clean, running water in rural towns, beat down every ridiculous regulation he could that would aggravate the already lopsided odds against farmers everywhere. Not a great politician was Berry, (and it was never his aspiration) but a magnificent and tireless public servant.
Can we say that’s what we enjoy today in the First Congressional District? A warrior who stands in the gap, and on our behalf?
If not, who?